McDonagh’s “Three Billboards” Proves To Be His Personal Best!!!

By Scott Kurland

Film: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Peter Dinklage, Sandy Martin, John Hawkes, Abbie Cornish, and Samara Weaving

Rated R

Director: Martin McDonagh

If you’re looking to watch an optimistic story filled with hope, personal growth and a happy ending, then don’t see anything written or directed by Martin McDonagh. McDonagh is one of my favorite writers and directors. His films and plays are always so real; with characters so flawed that, sadly, you find yourself relating to them. His previous films “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths” focused on fictional hit-men and con artists. This week’s film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” has a story that feels like it’s ripped from the headlines. Let’s find out just how damn good it is shall we?

  Frances McDormand stars as Mildred Hayes whose daughter Angela was murdered seven months before the film’s start. So much time has passed and yet the case remains unsolved. There's no suspects in custody nor any person of interest. Frustrated and heartbroken, Mildred places the blame on Ebbing’s police force led by Chief William Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). Rather than simply waiting for answers Mildred buys three billboards on the back roads of Ebbing on which she airs her grievances. These three metal and wood structures illicit quite the response; the most she's seen since her daughters murder. Now the entire town is taking sides with some standing behind Mildred while others support Willoughby. Meanwhile, one of Willoughby’s hot headed officers, Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is drawing his line in the sand. Will Mildred ever get justice?

This is an excellent film- scratch that- this is a masterful and extraordinary film that will get people talking. This film puts the focus on three very important issues: rape culture, race relations, and gender inequality.  McDonagh isn’t shy about any of these topics. The theme of gender inequality was especially apparent with the subtext being that if Mildred was a man trying to get justice for his daughter, the folks of Ebbing wouldn’t bat an eye. The theme of race relations is embodied by Officer Dixon who enjoys using brute force when it comes to dealing with minorities. He sees the world in black and white when the town he serves is covered in grey from top to bottom. No one is who they appear to be. I don’t mean that in a sinister way. I mean that in a loving way. All of McDonagh’s characters are so angry on the surface but full of love on the inside. 

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri,” is another fantastic character study about human nature. Frances McDormand, as of now, is the top contender for Best Actress. Come Oscar season it’ll likely be her and Saoirse Ronan duking it out for the gold…maybe Margot Robbie as well for her role as Tonya Harding. McDormand’s Mildred is a crusty old bugger. She’s angry, blames herself, desires revenge and will take down anyone who gets in the way. And I do mean anyone; even if they are foolish teenagers. McDormand is one of the best actress still working today. Every character she plays is always the smartest woman in the room. It's refreshing to see because it’s proof that older actresses can and should take center stage on the big screen more often. McDormand is absolutely perfect, but her performance is just one of the many cogs that makes this clock turn.

Adding to the list of fantastic performances are Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell. Both knock it out of the park in this film. They both deserve nominations, but it will likely be Rockwell who gets it and possibly the Oscar. 


Officer Dixon might be the most complex and beautiful characters he's ever written. Dixon is not the sharpest tool in the shed, he has a scandal on his record and he’s a bit of a short fuse. Rockwell never plays him as dumb though. If anything he's more uninformed and that’s why he works here. In fact, that description can be applied to all the characters in this film.

                “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri” is a powerful story of tragedy in a small town. It’s raw and real and possibly one of the best films of 2017. McDonagh has out done himself here. The cast is superb, and I didn’t even mention Lucas Hedges who is fresh off his Oscar nomination. This film just further proves that Hedges is the next Matt Damon. See this film as soon as you can before it’s too late. But be warned... it doesn’t give you the answers you want to hear, just the ones you truly need.


scott kurlandComment